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MAKE Newsletter

January 31, 2013

It's easy to get charmed by shiny new tools, but unless they are functional and ultimately help you successfully accomplish your projects, their value is dubious at best. MAKE Editor-in-Chief Mark Frauenfelder puts it well: "The biggest challenge right now for the maker community is to not get caught up in the latest and greatest gizmo or new tool that appears, and to remember that making things is more important than the tools you use to make them."

If you have a favorite tool, please send us a photo and tell us why you love it. (We especially want to see handmade or well-loved tools!)

Engineering Screw Chart

I use this engineering screw chart in my workshop quite often—mostly, so far, to look up tap drill sizes and gauge nominal pipe diameters. It’s compact and durable and water- and grease-proof, and has saved me a lot of time running back and forth between my web-connected smartphone, tablet, laptop, or whatever (all of which I like to keep clean) and my dirty workshop and tools.               —Sean Ragan

Culinary Blowtorch

I have a new favorite tool. I needed to make a few solder joints on a ham radio antenna in my backyard. My daughter's culinary blowtorch, purchased for making crème brûlée, was the perfect solution: lightweight, pencil flame, easy to control. I have since seen the same basic torch packaged and sold as a workshop soldering tool at the local hardware store, but this one solders antennas and also makes great crème brûlée.      —Eric Hansen

VamPLIERS Screw Extraction Tool

VamPLIERS are advertised as a multipurpose screw remover, and they’re very good at it. The jaws have vertical serrations as well as horizontal ones, making it much easier to grip and remove screws. Unlike a lot of sprung, hinged hand tools, this high quality spring is embedded deep into each handle, and extremely unlikely to get loose or damaged. —Eric Weinhoffer

Engraver's Universal Clamp

Being a tabletop wargame miniature modelers, I've coveted this tool in the Micro-Mark catalog for years. The configuration of the Universal Clamp allows you to hold all sorts of odd-shaped objects. I love the feel of the hardwood handle and the stability and degrees of freedom it affords. It makes it much easier to paint fussy highlights and tiny details holding the piece in this device.                —Gareth Branwyn

Vaccon Venturi Vacuum Pump

A proper laboratory vacuum pump is a pricey space hog. But If your shop has an air compressor or other source of compressed gas, you can use an air aspirator, also called an “air ejector” and a “Venturi pump,” to create vacuum for light duty lab work. The Vaccon Venturi vacuum pump works at least as well as any water aspirator I’ve ever used, and better than most. —Sean Ragan

QU-BD Silicone Heater

The QU-BD silicone heater was designed for use in a heated 3D printer build platform (which is required for warp-free ABS prints). The build quality of the heater is quite robust. The time to heat up the QU-BD heater was quite reasonable, even when it had a sheet of glass or aluminum on it. It would make a great heater for use in a custom heated build platform or in other heating applications. —Eric Chu